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Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz Won’t Seek Re-Election

Jason Chaffetz, who has represented Utah’s 3rd Congressional District since first being elected in 2008 and now serves as Chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, announced this morning that he would not be seeking re-election:

WASHINGTON — Representative Jason Chaffetz, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told supporters on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to Congress — or for any office — in 2018.

Mr. Chaffetz, 50, a Utah Republican who plainly relished his oversight role more under a Democratic administration, said he was ready to return to the private sector after more than 13 years in public service, calling his decision a “personal” one.

“I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time.”

He said his decision was not based on either health or political concerns, adding that he was “confident” of his re-election should he have pursued it and retained support from Speaker Paul D. Ryan for his committee chairmanship.

More than 18 months out from the election in the heavily Republican district, there were already possible signs of a challenging race in Mr. Chaffetz’s future. Kathryn Allen, a physician and political newcomer running as a Democrat, has already raised nearly $400,000 more than Mr. Chaffetz this year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday — most of it from donors outside of Utah. And Mr. Chaffetz had also acquired a primary challenger: Damian W. Kidd, a lawyer and another newcomer who accused the congressman of caring more about himself than his district.

Even with his announcement, Mr. Chaffetz left open the possibility of his return.

“I may run again for public office,” he added, “but not in 2018.”

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Chaffetz has shown an opportunistic streak, often rushing toward television cameras with an eager smile. During the election, he vacillated several times before backing President Trump. He said he would not be able to look his teenage daughter in the eye should he vote for Mr. Trump after revelations arose that Mr. Trump had boasted in 2005 of sexually assaulting women. Then he voted for him. And he vowed to investigate Hillary Clinton whether she won or not.

With a ready foil in Mrs. Clinton, whose brushes with controversy have sustained many Republican congressional careers, Mr. Chaffetz appeared primed to emerge as a chief tormentor for a new Democratic White House.

Instead, as much as perhaps any member of Congress, his fortunes turned considerably with Mr. Trump’s victory.

During his time heading the committee, Mr. Chaffetz has focused often on two pet issues: criticizing the Secret Service for security lapses and holding Mrs. Clinton to account.

After the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, announced in July that the bureau would recommend that Mrs. Clinton not be charged over her use of a private email account when she was secretary of state, Mr. Chaffetz led House Republicans in rejecting Mr. Comey’s conclusion.

Five days after the announcement, Mr. Chaffetz asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Mrs. Clinton had lied in her testimony before Congress about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Mr. Chaffetz had been one of the first lawmakers to raise questions about the Obama administration’s role in Benghazi, traveling to Libya less than a month after the attacks to evaluate security standards.

“It’s the nature of being the committee chairman to conduct oversight of the administration,” he said last year, describing his role as a pursuit of facts, not a political agenda.

But with Mr. Trump’s surprise victory in November, Mr. Chaffetz found himself in an uncomfortable position: a watchdog who often sounded disinclined to watch over a fellow Republican.

When Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, resigned in February amid reports of his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Chaffetz appeared eager to move on.

“I think that situation has taken care of itself,” he said.

Other controversies had nothing to do with oversight.

Last month, as his party bickered over how to replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Mr. Chaffetz came under fire for suggesting that uninsured Americans should spend money on their own health care “rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love.”

Notwithstanding the comments in the article above, Chaffetz represents a solidly Republican district so it’s likely that whoever manages to win the Republican nomination to replace him will end up winning the General Election in 2018. As for Chaffetz himself, there had been some suggestions that Chaffetz might run for Senate, but with the news that Senator Orrin Hatch will apparently seek re-election, whatever plans Chaffetz had in that direction had obviously been abandoned. There have also been reports that he may run for Governor in 2020 since the current Republican incumbent, Gary Hebert, has already said he will not seek re-election in 2020 even though he would be eligible to do so. In that regard, it’s worth noting that the domain “JasonforGovernor.com” now points to Chaffetz’s Congressional campaign site. Whether that’s an indication of future plans or simply a reflection of the fact that his campaign bought up a number of possible domain names to prevent others from grabbing them is unclear.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    Jason is certainly keeping his options open for 2020. Why wouldn’t he? Going in, he’d be a favorite. Even though he’s never been a statewide candidate in Utah, he wouldn’t have too much difficulty putting a team together and campaigning. It’s worth noting that, under current state election law, Chaffetz would have to face a Republican convention of state delegates. He could probably get their support, depending on who else runs, which requires 60%. However, he or another candidate could force a primary by gathering signatures. That would essentially bypass the convention and delegate system altogether, which tends to skew more conservative than the state electorate.

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  2. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I don’t care who takes the seat or what political party they represent; getting rid of this dirtbag is victory enough.

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The country is better off without this dirt-bag in Washington.

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. wr says:

    The question is whether he’s just looking to cash in before the Republican brand is ruined, or he’s trying to keep one step ahead of the subpoenas.

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  5. James Pearce says:

    I hear Fox News has an opening…

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. al-Alameda says:

    I guess he was burned out from repeated investigation of Hillary Clinton.

    I wish him well in North Korea.

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  7. Mr. Prosser says:

    Who’s next; Gowdy, Nunes?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    “Now that I’m expected to the work of governance, this isn’t fun anymore.”

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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